Back to the future

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January 31st, 2011. As the black cab negotiated its way through the heaving streets, my adrenalin was rising as quickly as the meter. London. What would this sprawling metropolis hold for me? Where would I fit in?

Fast forward five years and it’s time to say goodbye. I’m returning to my home city in Scotland and wondering, once again, what the future will bring. A new chapter beckons.

As I contemplate my imminent departure I’m sad and nostalgic, but very thankful. They say that life’s what happens to you while you’re busy making plans and it’s only now I’ve time to reflect. I’ve gathered so many memories along the way. Those difficult early days when I thought I’d never learn the job (I did, and it got better. Much, much better). Getting used to the Tube, the hustle and bustle, the shockingly hot summers. The places I’ve lived, the friends I’ve made. Running the marathon. Drinks in the balmy sunshine. Strolls through the parks. A tour of Westminster, braving the Wimbledon queue after a nightshift. Covering the Olympics. Field producing in Italy. A trip to Oxford where I’d meet the man I’d marry. Endlessly losing my way, literally and metaphorically. I always found it in the end.

Of course it’s easy to look at things through rose-tinted glasses, as we all do when we realise something we once took for granted will be no more. London’s not for the faint-hearted. Everything operates at breakneck speed. Travelling takes forever. The prices are extortionate. Organising a simple night out with friends involves meticulous planning. But by god, it’s a wonderful place. The summer after I arrived, the city was rocked by riots. Yes, there was horror, yes there was shock, yes there was outrage. But in its aftermath a spirit and a solidarity emerged, the likes of which I’d never experienced before. For a city armed with a reputation for being cold and clinical, it had a hidden heart of compassion. The following year the Olympics arrived and the capital united once again. It was friendly, it was fun, it was incredibly hard work, and I felt privileged to be part of it. I’ll never forget embracing strangers as the hazy summer sun streamed through a ring-adorned Tower Bridge and Mo Farah’s jubilant face beamed from the massive TV screen. I knew it there and then: This was London at its very, very best.

However as the years went on, I found myself  increasingly longing for home. Leaving Aberdeen after a wee visit became harder and harder. I yearned for the clean, fresh air. I longed for those head-clearing runs in the stunning countryside. I missed my loved ones and wanted them closer. It’s not been an easy decision. But I know it’s the right one.

So for me and my family, it’s time for pastures new. And this brings just as much nervousness and excitement as the day I arrived in London. Although I’m returning to the city where I was born and raised, I’m aware it will be very different from the last time I lived there. Despite spending most of my twenties and thirties leapfrogging around the country (Glasgow, Leeds, London, with a bit of Oxford and Swansea thrown in), it’s this move that’s the biggest step into the unknown, and not just in geographical terms. I know the true friends I’ve made down south will continue to keep in touch, and I know I’ll be back in London in the future – indeed I look forward to taking my son to the city of his birth when he’s older. I also know that from tomorrow I’ll be looking  very much ahead instead of back. But for the moment I’m content to sit back and cherish everything I’ve gained over the past five and a half years. Farewell for now, you crazy, wonderful city.

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Composed Upon Westminster Bridge – William Wordsworth:

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

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The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen:

The northern lights of old Aberdeen
Mean home sweet home to me
The northern lights of Aberdeen
Are what I long to see
I’ve been a wanderer all of my life
And many a sight I’ve seen
God speed the day, when I’m on my way
To my home in Aberdeen

When I was a lass, a tiny wee lass 
My mother said to me
Come see the northen lights my boy
They’re bright as they can be
She called them the heavenly dancers
Merry dancers in the sky
I’ll never forget that wonderful sight
They made the heavens bright

I’ve wandered in many far off lands
And traveled many a mile
I’ve missed the folk I’ve cherished the most
The joy of a friendly smile
It warms up the heart of the wanderer
The clasp of a welcoming hand
To greet me when I return
Home to my native land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May the Force be with you…


It was all going so well. For a couple of weeks Tom had been sleeping through the night. Bonus. I kept schtum as I didn’t want others to think I was boasting. But secretly I was chuffed to bits. Farewell sleep deprivation! Hello my bed, my oh my, how I’ve missed you. All was good in mummyland…

Ah, to go back to those carefree days, wallowing in blissful naivety. Little did I know the monster of Sleep Regression was about to rear its ugly head. And that I would be fantastically unprepared for the ensuing battle. One night Tom’s basking in a tranquil dreamscape swimming with rabbits, pastel colours and candy. The hills were fully alive with The Sound of Music as mummy runs through a meadow. She’s free, fresh as a daisy and ready to take on the world. Then, kaboom. The boy stops sleeping. Full stop. Finito. Period (best said with American accent, raised eyebrows and slow, nodding head). All of a sudden my Julie Andrews canter is felled by a huge weed shooting up from the undergrowth. Welcome to The Sound of Wailing. 

So what to do? Well, what everyone does of course. Consult the font of all knowledge, the Chosen One, the Mother of all Matriarchs. Well helloooo there Mrs Google…

Apparently what no-one told me (the buggers), is that babies’ sleep patterns can change at around four months. We now had the full Tears, Tantrums and Tiaras experience (ok, perhaps not one of them). Getting the wee loon to bed has become a mammoth undertaking. I feel like I’m in a quiz show, pushing me to the limit. 

Of course I must say at times it is quite comical and I’m sure I’ll look back and laugh at it one day (perhaps as a pensioner). I am remarkably impressed by Tom’s ability to get through a full day in Babyland and all it entails – lots of looking around, masses of wriggling and feeding and crying, peppered with a pinch of sleep – and remain wide awake by late evening. 

The other night as I tried once again in vain to soothe my unsettled son, I became aware of an unfamiliar noise. Deep, heavy breathing. It started getting louder until it became full-on Darth Vader. “Ooooh-ver…oooooh-ver, ooooh-ver.” 

“I knew this house was weird, it must be haunted”, I started thinking as my heart rate trebled and the panic rose. 

Then came the muffled giggle. “I am your father. Go to sleep.” It wasn’t in fact the spectre of north-west London. Ladies and gentlemen, I present my husband, doing his best galactic voiceover through our video monitor…if I hadn’t been so exhausted I’d have happily throttled him.

While my husband’s behaviour is pretty much par for the course, sleep deprivation has done some strange things to me: 

1. A trip to the supermarket resulted in the purchase and consumption of 20 (yes, TWENTY) Lindt chocolates. In my defence they were miniature ones. And those bad boys are really small. And yes, ok, I *may* have done this once or twice before I was in charge of a tiny human. 

2. An embarrassing moment in the coffee shop during which I found myself slurping my child’s milk from a teat while he eyed up my Frappe Latte. The most frightening aspect of this was it took me a good ten minutes to notice. ‘Teatgate’ shall never be mentioned again herewith. 

So that’s what’s been going on. I’m praying the sleep regression will reverse, and the boy’s peaceful slumber will resume. Despite wanting to punch everyone who says “this too will pass”, I’m sure it’s true. There may be a mountain to climb, but I have every faith that I will frolic in those fields, Julie Andrews-style, once again. 

Musings on Motherhood: Weapons of Mass Distraction

Bribery and babies don’t mix. Believe me, I’ve tried. “I’ll read you the cloth version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar if you stop crying?” “Cash for smiles?” The boy sizes me up, narrow-eyed, tear-stained and suspicious, contemplating the offer on the table. A sharp business mind already. But my hope is short-lived. A furrowed brow and the bottom lip-curl tells me it’s been swiftly rejected. Normal service resumes. 

Following such epic fails, I’ve embarked on a different parenting technique: Weapons of Mass Distraction. My armoury is as follows: 

  
1. The Hairdryer
Little could I have imagined when I bought my shitty wee hairdryer all those years ago that I’d be using it to pacify a 12-week-old. The discovery came during a particularly trying morning. “Mummy’s just getting ready”, I shout, as I turn it on while simultaneously trying to dress myself, pick up a sick-stained baby grow and narrowly avoid slipping on one of fifty muslins. To my amazement, as soon as I flick the switch Tom’s eyelids start to droop. Perfect! *silent fist pump in head*. Unfortunately for me the wee rascal has now cottoned on to my trick and tries every trick in the book to fight the sleep. “My hands and feet will keep moving mummy, my hands and feet will keep moving…yay!” We have a maximum sleep time of approximately two minutes. Which definitely isn’t long enough for a sly coffee. (I have attempted it.) I often daydream about slowly drinking a piping hot latte while the Hallelujah Chorus plays in the background. Magical. Wonderful. Never going to happen. 

  

Yes son, this was your mother in a previous life 
2. Singing
This is how I spend approximately two thirds of my time with the nipper. It doesn’t matter what I sing. It doesn’t matter when I sing. I sing. This method has had varying levels of success. ABC was flavour of the month until he decided he didn’t like the Jackson Five anymore. The boy doesn’t know a classic when he hears it. Tickling his toes and declaring “Tickilie tock, Tickilie tock, da da da da da da da daaaah daaaah” to the tune of Captain Pugwash is the current fave. Although I’m singing it so much I worry it will cross over into my adult life… There will come a day when I go to the bakers and skip around clicking my fingers whilst declaring “mummy’s gettin’ the bread, yeah” to the tune of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This. Dear God. 

  

Roosters, roosters everywhere. Beware 

3. The Good Old Dog and Bone

Ah the mobile phone. That glorious bastion of distraction. Before Tom arrived I downloaded two albums. I was convinced he would love them and we’d sing along together, Playschool-stylee. I was smug. I was stupid. 

Of course I also committed the cardinal sin of not listening to these ‘tunes’ properly until after the baby was here. Now our home is filled with the warblings of the 50 Greatest Nursery Rhymes by The Countdown Kids (cheer, woo hoo!) A chorus of American kids with saccharine sweet voices. Some of the tracks make no sense whatsoever, and it’s not just me that hates them. Tom and I can tolerate Old MacDonald Had A Farm, (a masterclass in memorising various animal sounds), but then we get to such gems as”I had a Rooster”. Here’s a flavour:

“My little rooster went cocka doodle doo.      Dee doodle-ee doodle-ee doodle-ee do”

And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. 
Before long the boy’s in tears again and I’m planning how hunt down that sodding bird. Your doodle-ee do days are numbered my feathered friend. 

The lullabies album is a tad more sedate (clue in the title, huh), and I tend to use it at night. But there’s a spanner in the works. A fly in the ointment. Tucked away amidst all the lovely, lilting tunes, there’s a really bloody upbeat track. Why would you do that? WHY? The bambino’s drifting off, all is well with the world, then BOOM. While I may secretly yearn for a return to my clubbing days I’m not keen to have it re-enacted in my bedroom at half seven at night, thus waking up my kiddie-wink. FFS. 

  

The boy is not impressed…

Those are my tools. Unfortunately their deployment has not been a huge success. Beleaguered and battle-weary, back to the bribery it is…

The Swimming Lesson

Babies can be hard work at the best of times. But babies and swimming pools? A mammoth undertaking.

I rock up with the bambino and two huge changing bags containing a multitude of stuff. Big trunks. Little trunks. Cardboard box. A pairs of goggles (for me, not him. Although that would be impressive for his first swimming lesson).

The reception is filled with apprehensive parents. We’re ushered through and I lug boy and bags into a teeny-tiny changing room. On opening said bags I quickly realise I’ve packed them in no real order, so the nappy and trunks are stuffed in right at the bottom. Resulting in everything being flung onto the wet floor in my haste to get him ready Great.

Trunks out. Now just to get them on. They’re made of wetsuit material so rather a tight fit. Trying to force them onto a wriggling, gurgling baby isn’t the easiest. I eventually manage, although they still hang down a bit. MC Hammer eat your heart out.

As I carry Tom into the pool I’m praying we won’t have a repeat incident of The Great British Baby Weigh Off, which involved copious amounts of urine at an inopportune time. As it turns out, another babe will trump him on that at a later date. He has a suspicious look on his face as we get into the water. His best “mummy, what the hell are we doing” demeanour. But no tears. So far, so good.

We bounce our babies around in a circle, as the instructor, a happy-clappy jazz hands type, stands in the middle shouting out instructions. We dance to his merry tune. “Sing to them!”, he exclaims. At this moment I realise I don’t know all the words. What sort of song is this anyway? Ah yes, a timeless classic apparently. What a novice.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,  Doo do, er, la la, er ooh ooh, you are….”

I’m smiling at Tom, who remains as bemused as ever.

After a few dittys and an attempt at holding baby in the swimming position, it’s time for the pièce de résistance: Underwater Time!! (smiley faces and tap dance).

The instructor explains he’ll take each baby and dunk them underwater. Preceding this, their parent is to shout “Baby’s name, ready, GO!”

We near the end of the line up and I feel a tad more reassured as I see other babies emerging from the water looking like drowned rats, but otherwise unscathed.

Tom’s turn. I put on my best smiling mummy face and fill my voice with enthusiasm. “Tom, ready, GO!”. Boom. Babe disappears under the water. Turns out he’s not a fan. As he emerges there’s a split second of silence, followed by a piercing scream. His hand shoots out,  and grabs my hair with a vice-like grip.

Oh crap. “Well done, well done, well done” is all I can think of to say, whilst giving my husband an “is he ok” look as he films it from the sidelines with a thumbs up.

After a while he calms down. We do some more singing, bouncing and hand-gliding and before we know it the lesson’s over.*

The following week, and it’s time for Tom’s next underwater excursion. I’m steeled. I’m prepared. Only one changing bag. Proper mummy. Organised mummy. Then my phone beeps.

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Welcome to #Nappygate. Thank God it wasn’t Tom. A bizarre scene then pops into my head of Mr Happy Clappy  skipping around the poolside while trying to extricate the offending specimen with a fishing net. All while Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty” plays in the background. Yup. I definitely need to get out more.

*Part of this sentence *may* be a lie.

*is

 

 

 

 

The Great British Baby Weigh Off

I’m living in a parallel universe. Klaxon: You Have Entered the World of Baby. Ah, to be that small again. This week I had to check my little one was putting on enough beef. Or, as I like to call it, The Great British Baby Weigh Off. 

Adopting my official role of Maternal Collector Gatherer, I round up the thousands of items required for venturing outdoors, get Tom in the car and set off to our nearby children’s centre. It’s worth noting this process takes approximately ten hours. 

Having only just started to drive again, I realise I’ve lost my ability to park. To be fair I never had it in the first place. Therein follows ten minutes (ok, maybe fifteen) of reversing, straightening up, reversing, swearing, sweating and a hairy encounter with the kerb.

Parking: Done. Out of car, boot open, pram frame heaved onto pavement. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have bought a belter of a transport system. A velociraptor. And this bitch can bite. It should display a warning that trying to put the wheels back on is likely to result in the loss of digits. Right. The dinosaur is primed. Return to car. Press release button on car seat base and lug out car seat complete with son. Try to place car seat on frame. Fail. Curse under breath and look around slyly to make sure no-one’s watching me. Shoogle car seat around until eventually it clips on. Baby wakes up with a jolt and looks at me, doe-eyed and suspicious.

Getting there and parking was an achievement. What I hadn’t considered was how to best manouvere The Beast (the buggy, not the baby) through the door. Consequently I push, shove and barge our way in, a smorgasbord of arms, legs and wheels. As I wipe sweat off my brow, I’m greeted by a bemused looking receptionist and a waiting room full of pregnant women, no doubt taking one look at me and wondering what the hell they’ve let themselves in for.

“Oh, you should have left the frame outside in the parking bay”, says the receptionist, sizing me up through tilted specs. “But don’t worry about it now, just unclip him and bring him through in the car seat.”

Well that’s easier said than done love. I struggle to remove the car seat from the bloody frame, resulting in the receptionist having to come round and help me. Tom promptly wakes up and starts crying. An Audience with a Stressed Out Mummy.

Finally, we’re free and good to go. I’m given a ticket, number 14, and told to go into another room. There’s a lot going on in here. Babies are wailing, giggling and girning, toddlers are running around wreaking havoc. Well least if I’m a shambles I’m not alone. 

We have a long wait, during which Tom alternates between crying (please don’t cry, please don’t cry) and smiling (good boy! what a clever boy! please don’t cry, please don’t cry). Eventually our number is called and I carry him through. “Oh, you should have left the car seat in the other room”, the health visitor informs me. Right… Oh well, onwards and upwards. “Now, we need everything off, so we can weigh him.” “Including his nappy?” “Yes, then just pop him in the bowl.”

To my left is a row of baby changing stations. I place down Tom who by now is looking a tad concerned. Clothes come off (please don’t pee or poo, please don’t pee or poo), and we’re good to go.

  
I always think there’s something slightly amusing about seeing babies in a bowl. Surely they should be used for  butter and flour and eggs and stuff, not human beings. I’m half expecting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to walk in for an assessment. “He’s not quite crunchy enough.” “Needs more flavour.” “More salt please.”

Tom looks up at me arms akimbo, fingers splayed, and a quivering bottom lip. Uh-oh. “That’s fine, thanks, you can take him now.”

Back to Baby Changing Station no 115. Tom’s started grinning, and I’m so relieved we haven’t had a wee accident. That’s my boy, I think. I’ve clearly been worrying about nothing. When I look back down he’s crying. How can he have gone from smiling to crying so quickly?  Weird. Then I realise it’s not tears, it’s urine. He’s peed. And he’s done it so spectacularly it’s all over his face. And in his hair. And a little bit on the changing station housing another infant. Oh shit. Another little grin appears on my cheeky rascal’s face. Oh God. Now I’ll have to activate Operation Do A Runner Before Anyone Notices. But I have to await the results of The Great British Baby Weigh Off… I desperately try to wipe the pee off his face while sheepishly glancing around to make sure I’ve not been busted.

“He’s 12lbs.” The health visitor is striding towards me. “Between the 50th and 75th percentile.” I have no idea what this means. It sounds very scientific. But they seem happy enough with him. #Win.

“Oh dear,” she exclaims in a very loud voice. “Has he peed everywhere? I need to clean that up right now as we’ve another mum coming in.”

I’m now moving my half naked, pee-stained-but-still-smiling-babe whilst trying to unzip a bulging changing bag to extricate a changing mat the size of a hankie.

Eventually I lie him down and manage to get him fully changed and clothed. Tom’s nonplussed and it’s time for a sharp exit. I need a coffee. No, make that a tequila. Now where did I put that car seat? I turn round to see hundreds of identical ones … The Great British Baby Weigh Off may be over. But The Great Journey Home and Beyond has just begun. Starting tomorrow with Tom’s first swimming lesson…

 

 

Musings on Motherhood

  
A few ramblings on the best and hardest job in the world…

“The Travel System”

Four wheels, a frame and a basket bitty. I mean, how hard can it be to operate? Ah, how naive I was before becoming responsible for transporting a small being. Little did I know that the travel system (aka pram) is a serious piece of hardware with many pitfalls and perils. They have names like wrestlers. The Elephant. The Bison. We opted for a make on the slightly sturdier side. Durable. Reliable. Easy to use…

I’ve since discovered that wheeling it around your living room with a teddy in it is a tad different from stepping out into the real world while your child looks up at you with a sly grin, as if he can foresee the path of destruction that awaits.

I’ve bumped into everything. I took out an entire shelf at the pharmacy. Quite proud of that one. I also ran over a lady’s foot at the bus stop. Although she had jumped the queue so in my view was fair game. Baby agreed.

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In a word: No. 

“The Transfer”

Baby has fed. Yipee. Baby has fallen asleep. Get. In. You’re good to go. Now all you have to do is lift them into their cot/crib/Moses basket/snuzzypod/sniffytwinkle – otherwise known as their bed/pit/scratcher. Easy, right? No, you fools. This manoeuvre requires careful planning and meticulous attention to detail. This is deadline day (or night) and you have a slim, time dependent window in which to get this right. Substitutes will not do, you want to be right at the top of that premier league. Have you already removed the blankets from baby’s bed so you can place them down? No? Transfer won’t work. Have you ensured baby is definitely fast asleep? No? Won’t work. Have you placed a bowl of peanut M&Ms next to his bed, taking care to remove all the blue ones while leaping gently around while spraying his room with lavender oil as The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies plays in the background? No? You lose. Have you completed all of the above? Yes? Great, well done you. (Still won’t work).

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Parental Advisory:

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Sling yer hook

The Sling. An essential piece of equipment for the Modern Mother. Fancy being one of those glamorous mummies gliding about effortlessly with her baby in tow, hadn’t you? ‘La Maman about town’. Now all you’ve got to do is figure out how the hell you put it on. And then get the baby into it without screaming. Good luck amigos, you’re going to need it.

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Bambino says

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Poo

You know your life’s changed when you’re having animated discussions about your baby’s bowel movements. Colour. Consistency. Thickness. Frequency. Expression* I am the Faecal Administrator. In other words, a poo cleaner upper. “Hi, I’m Lou and I’m a faecal administrator.” Not dissimilar to The Horse Whisperer, albeit with slightly less impressive credentials. Get in touch and I will tell you everything you need to know about your newborn’s toilet habits.

*There is such a thing as an angry poo. I’ve seen it. Heaven hath no fury like a deposit scorned. 

 

 

The Game of Life 

 
I knew things had changed when my husband and I started arguing about whether a mark on the wall was a piece of baby poo. 

Our boy arrived two weeks ago. And since then it’s been all sorts of crazy. I hate American phrases but in this case it’s the only one that will suffice. 

They say nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent. I listened to this with a large pinch of salt. Yeah, yeah, how hard can it be? I’ve worked night shifts, my body clock is probably well attuned to this already. And how long can a baby actually cry for? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. An awful lot…

Our first days together we’re spent in hospital, a parallel universe where the aroma of disinfectant and the shuffling figures of shell-shocked mothers abound. Feed, wind, change, sleep…please sleep…please sleep, won’t sleep. It did mean that we had some help with looking after the little man before being  unleashed on the outside world. Going Home. A big moment. The baby slept in the car all the way back. Excellent. A precursor of things to come perhaps? Oh, my naivety…

The first few nights at home were ok. Manageable, even. Cool. I’ve got this mummy thing sorted. Booyakasha. But what I hadn’t banked on was the hurricane-like arrival of DAY 10. Why, why, why did no-one tell me about DAY 10? The Darth Vader of days and the Emperor of nights. Apparently this is growth spurt territory where pretty much anything can happen. In our case it manifested itself in hourly feeds and a lot of girning and growling – and that was just me and my husband, wracked with despair in the witching hour as we silently mouthed “what is wrong with him?” 

  
When you become a parent you also turn detective. How I long for powers of deduction that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. Babies are an unknown entity. A sweet little mystery, to quote a pop classic. You’ve fed them. You’ve changed them. You’ve cuddled them. You’ve changed them. Yet still they cry. And will only sleep on you. And will definitely wait until you’ve taken off that nappy before deciding it’s time for some fun of the defecation variety. 

The sleep deprivation is interesting. “Can you go and check on her?”, I murmur to my husband in the middle of the night. Which is all good and well. Except my baby is a boy.

I’ve poured water on my cereal instead of milk. And considered eating it. Managing to brush my hair is a major success. Drying it would be a major coup. And daytime TV is my new best friend, even if much of it, not unlike my son’s nappy, contains an impressive amount of crap.

Of course what’s also overwhelming is the love I have for my son. There’s nothing like it. PIs he ok, are we bad parents, I wonder. As humans we’re used to telling people what’s wrong with us, but that’s not easy when you’re trying to decipher it from the pitch and tone of a newborn’s cry. 

As I sit here with him at two weeks old I wonder where the time has gone already. And what lies ahead.  Fun, brilliant and baffling times, for sure. It’s hard work. But what I’ve realised is that we’re all learners in the parent game. While nothing can prepare you for it, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Now excuse me while I go and pour some water on my Special K…

The Waiting Game (Ho, Ho, Ho…)

Operation Beached Whale has reached new and, quite frankly, staggering heights. My due date has been and gone, whizzing past in the blink of an eye. However since then it’s felt like an eternity.

Everyone tells you not to focus too much on the due date. Which, let’s face it, is like saying don’t think of a pink elephant. Or a chocolate teapot. Or, well, a baby.

I tried to not pin too much on it. But inevitably I was wide awake at 5am on Saturday, noticing every tiny twinge, thinking “this could be it!” As my husband, stirs from his deep slumber and mutters “baby coming today” before crashing out again.

Two days later and bugger all’s happened. I’ve been bouncing on that bloody birth ball for hours, eating pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea and going out for walks as much as my waddling body will allow. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Not even a sniff of a contraction.

I reckon the baby may be deliberately holding out for Christmas Day. That’s FIVE days away, which seems like a lifetime. Of course it could be even longer. We’re talking about New Year’s Eve at the latest. My god, I’ll be a swamp creature by then. Stig of the Dump. Emerging beast-like from the steaming waters of Yoda’s training camp in The Empire Strikes Back.

To give myself credit, my grumpiness levels are impressive. An abundance of sighing and harrumphing. Turning over in bed is like performing a ten-point turn in a tractor stuck in the mud. Going up the stairs requires hands on each bannister and takes hours. The sofa has permanently moulded itself into the outline of my body. Take a piece of chalk to it and you’ve got something out of a TV crime scene.

During the day I’m desperate to go out, but I’m just getting too damn tired. Cue cabin fever and a permanently furrowed brow, punctuated by the occasional growling at anyone who dares venture too close to me.

Of course I know as soon as labour kicks in I’ll long for these carefree moments. “Take me back”, I’ll wail. Give me back my waddle and license to wallow. Let me eat iced minced pies to my heart’s content and watch Disney films. With that in mind, a deep breath, and back to the swamp it is…

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From here to maternity…

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My first week of maternity leave is here.

“Enjoy it while you can!”

“Get lots of sleep!”

“Put your feet up and do nothing!”

Some nuggets of advice as impending motherhood approaches. Ah, if only it were that easy! Ok, so admittedly the physical relaxation part hasn’t been the most taxing. Helped no end by the fact I’ve acquired the body and energy levels of a beached whale. The sofa is my new BFF. My husband making thumping noises as I gingerly come down the stairs is not.

Maternity leave: Hello afternoon naps! Nice to meet you, glorious crap on daytime TV! Bonjour, rubbish Christmas playlists introduced by Z-list celebs! All most welcome. But there’s a problem. Despite the body being more than willing, the mind is accelerating faster than Lewis Hamilton on race day. What should I be doing? There are things I should be doing. Cleaning. Sorting. More important than that, it’s time to think properly about THE BIRTH.

Until last week, work had kept me ticking along nicely. But maternity leave has handed me the gift of time. Time to realise that the biggest event of my life will be occurring over the next few weeks. And it’s come as a shock. Who knows when it will happen? Who knows where? (Ok, in hospital I’m hoping). I should be reading more baby books. I should be doing my pelvic floor exercises. I should be bouncing on my big pink ball while simultaneously hoping it doesn’t burst at any minute due to my heifer-like status.

Instead I’m eating iced minced pies while the strains of “Mistletoe and Wine” (Children Singing Christian Rhymes…Everyone Sway!) blare from the telly. All the while debating in my head whether the birth might not be quite as bad if I envisage it to be horrific. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I’ve got it sorted. Reverse psychology and all that.

I’m also thinking about wine. Not during the birth of course. Although that might be nice. I could start a business that administers it intravenously. A nice big fat glass of Sauvignon Blanc. “I’ve not missed alcohol at all”, I’ve proudly told people during this pregnancy. Yeah, well that’s changed this week. What a prat I am.

And I miss my clothes. Ah ha ha, remember that time when I thought anything around a size 12 meant I was getting fat! My naivety astounds me. Anything I can squeeze my ‘rotund’* frame into now is at least a size 16. And thank god our scales are broken at the moment. Something I was not responsible for. Ok? OK???

The mood swings have been interesting. Everything’s wonderful! Everything’s awful! I’m so excited about the baby. But…I’m…just…so…tired…and…nervous…and…scared… SNIFF. SOB. Can you bring through the chocolate please?

The grumpiness. Grrrrr. That’s the only way to sum it up. Grrrr….Furrowed brow and crazy eyes.

Conversations are also becoming increasingly bizarre. Here’s a snapshot of today’s exchange:

Me: “I feel like a warthog.”

Husband laughs.

Me: “It’s not funny. I don’t even really know what a warthog looks like. But that’s what I am.”

Husband: “It’s the animal from The Lion King, isn’t it? You know, the one that sings Hakuna Matata.”

Me: “Oh, in that case I’m not a warthog then. I’m much bigger than that.”

Husband: “But it’s just the Circle of Life, isn’t it” *Laughs

Me: Death Stare.

The End

*Euphemism

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All hail the Christmas TV movie!

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Appearing every weekday afternoon on a little-heard of cable network near you. Packed with more sugar than a Krispy Kreme factory. More waffle than a Birds Eye warehouse. The hidden heroes of the small screen. Yes, it’s the TV film. A veritable feast of cheesiness, predictable plots and atrocious acting. Juxtaposed against some well-placed muzak. I love them.

My guilty pleasure started as a teenager. Off sick from school, roaming through the channels with a lethargic indifference. And there it was. The postcard-perfect American town. Oozing saccharine. A plethora of once-famous child actors. “Today, Mrs TV film director, I will be taking on the role of do-gooder.” They’re alway do-gooders.  And then there’s the romance. We hate each other. But we love each other really. Didn’t see that one coming…

The obsession continued through my university years. Unsurprising, as it seems to be a prerequisite for all students to watch afternoon telly. By now my playlist was peppered with a sprinkling of TV programmes of equally dubious stature. I refer you to Diagnosis Murder, Murder, She Wrote and Quincy. High-calibre viewing indeed.

As it happens, I’m watching a TV movie right now. With a seasonal theme. The bland music plays on and on (and on), as  two high school music teachers compete to see who can produce the best singers in their class and win a Christmas concert. The teacher who fails will lose their job. Obviously. Oh, and both teachers have been on an online dating website, and guess who they’ve been matched to? Here’s a clue. It’s each other. Who would have thought it? What a film.*

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I must also mention another gem I came across last week.

“Secret Santa”

Synopsis: Pretty blonde reporter arrives in sleepy backwater town, trying to uncover identity of an elusive Secret Santa (clue is in the title, folks). She places her bets on a rich, young bachelor. It’s not him, but she finds love in the process – yay – kicking her useless ex-boyfriend to the kerb once and for all in the process. Leaving her to walk into the snow-adorned sunset with the loaded young stud, amid a blurry glow of Christmas lights.

Why do I love these films so much? They’re overly sentimental, wishy-washy and universally panned by the critics.

Well, for one, they’re good fun. And they don’t require too much brain power. Which I have to say is very welcome when I’ve been working long shifts at work. Or at the moment, eight-and-a-half-months pregnant and barely able to move.

Ok, so they’re ridiculously unrealistic. But hey, don’t we all need unrealistic at times? Pure, unadulterated escapism. With a massive dollop of sugar.

*Spoiler alert: The teachers’ students decide to sing together in the end, as they don’t want either teacher losing their job. Cue very bad lip-syncing, hand-holding, and surprise trumpet cameo by hunky teacher. Before they declare their undying love for each other. Picture postcard perfect.

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